Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kingston A1000 NVMe, UV500 SSD, and Memory Module Laptop Upgrades Review


The Holiday Season is over. And this time of year the upgrade bug can be out in full force. It could be that you got a new laptop, and want to improve it’s performance. Or it could be that you got some cash gifts over the holidays, and are looking to bump up the performance of your current laptop. Either way, RAM and SSD drives are a great way to improve your performance. And Kingston with their plethora of products has you covered.


The Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping bug got me. It was time for a new laptop, and I couldn’t resist the prices. And many of you may be like me. The new laptops have the newer NVMe slot, as well as the standard hard drive slot. Budget laptops may only come with 4 GB of RAM, maybe 8GM. They all come standard with the slow platter hard drives. But if you want to give yourself a big jump in performance with 16 GB of RAM, a large NVMe SSD primary drive, and maybe an SSD secondary drive, that is all going to come at a huge price premium. The Intel 16 GB Optane drive is a popular option to increase the performance of your platter hard drive, but it’s still a price premium. It’s much cheaper to do these upgrades yourself after you get the laptop.

This is where Kingston comes it. There can sometimes be compatibility issues. But Kingston’s website is phenomenal, and makes finding the right memory modules and drives that will work with your laptop model easy! You just select the make and model of your laptop, and it will tell you the correct memory modules, and different SSD drives that will work for your laptop, including NVMe drives if your laptop has one of those drives. With Kingston’s help, you can turn your laptop into a high performance desktop replacement, especially if your laptop has discrete graphics. Today we will be reviewing Kingston’s  KCP426SS8/8 memory modules, A1000 NVMe drive, and UV500 SSD drive.

I really love these options. 16 GB of RAM will make whatever task you are working on be really quick. Going with a NVMe primary drive, windows will load extremely fast! And going with a huge 960 GB drive, it will be big enough for not only windows, but to hold all of your programs. And they will load very quickly! Adding a secondary SSD drive, all of your multimedia flies, such as photos, music, and video, will also load very fast. Being an SSD drive, it’s also more reliable and safer then an old style platter drive.

For me, going this route was a no brainer. Few laptop manufacturers offered more than a 256 GB NVMe drive, and if they did, the cost was huge. Wanting to use the NVMe drive as my primary drive, I wanted much more than just 256 GB. I also wanted a large secondary drive for my multimedia files, and the size that I wanted was again a huge premium. The same was also true going from 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM. It was so much cheaper to do these upgrades myself. And seeing the price difference between say the 480 GB and 960 GB SSD drive, it was worth paying a little more and getting twice the storage capacity!

I was also a bit intrigued with the performance potential. The laptop deal I found came with the 16 GB Intel Optane drive. I thought I would still get a boost in performance, but I wasn’t sure how much. I knew it would be more reliable, but I wasn’t sure how much faster it would be. But having the platter 7200 RMP hard drive as well as the Intel Optane drive, I can show you what to expect. I’ll run numbers with 8 GB and just with the platter hard drive, and then what the numbers are with the Optane drive installed. Then I’ll run numbers with 16GB RAM installed and the new A1000 NVMe drive and UV500 SSD drive installed.

Features and specs:
Kinston KCP426SS8/8 Memory:
SKU
KCP426SS8/8
EAN/UPC Code
740617281897
Memory Capacity
8GB
Model/Series/Type
KCP
Brand
Kingston
CASLatency
CL17
Chip Organization
x8
Data Width
X64
Form Factor
DDR4
Memory Depth
2G
Memory Voltage
1.2v
Module Type
SODIMM
Operating Temperature
0°C to 85°C
Pins
260 Pin
Product Type/Family
DRAM
RAM Memory Type
Non-ECC
Rank
1R (Single Rank)
Speed
2666MHz (PC4-21300)
Warranty
Lifetime


A1000:
Form Factor: M.2 2280
Interface:
PCIe NVMe™ Gen 3.0 x 2 Lanes
Capacities2: 240GB, 480GB, 960GB
Controller: Phison E8
NAND: 3D TLC
Sequential Read/Write1:
240GB — up to 1,500/800MB/s
480GB — up to 1,500/900MB/s
960GB — up to 1,500/1,000MB/s
Random 4K Read/Write1:
240GB — up to 100,000/80,000
IOPS
480GB — up to 100,000/90,000 IOPS
960GB — up to 120,000/100,000 IOPS
Power Consumption:
0.011748W Idle / 0.075623W Avg / 0.458W (MAX) Read / 0.908W (MAX) Write
Dimensions:
80mm x 22mm x 3.5mm
Operating Temperatures:
0°C~70°C
Storage Temperatures :
-40°C~85°C
Weight:
240GB — 6.4g
480GB — 7g
960GB — 7.6g
Vibration Operating:
2.17G Peak (7–800Hz)
Vibration Non-Operating:
20G Peak (10–2000Hz)
Life Expectancy: 1 million hours MTBF
Warranty/Support3:
Limited 5-year warranty with free technical support
Total Bytes Written4:
240GB — 150TB
480GB — 300TB
960GB — 600TB

UV500:
Form factor: 2.5”/M.2 2280/mSATA
Interface:
SATA Rev. 3.0 (6Gb/s) – with backwards compatibility to SATA Rev. 2.0 (3Gb/s)
Capacities1: 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, 960GB, 1.92TB
Controller: Marvell 88SS1074 Controller
NAND: 3D TLC
Encryption: Encryption Support (AES 256-bit)
Sequential Read/Write2:
120GB — up to 520/320MB/s
240GB — up to 520/500MB/s
480GB — up to 520/500MB/s
960GB — up to 520/500MB/s
1.92TB — up to 520/500MB/s
Maximum 4K Read/Write2:
120GB — up to 79,000/18,000 IOPS
240GB — up to 79,000/25,000 IOPS
480GB — up to 79,000/35,000 IOPS
960GB — up to 79,000/45,000 IOPS
1.92TB — up to 79,000/50,000 IOPS
Power Consumption: 0.195W Idle / 0.5W Avg / 1.17W (MAX) Read / 2.32 W (MAX) Write
Dimensions:
100.1mm x 69.85mm x 7mm (2.5”)
80mm x 22mm x 3.5mm (M.2)
50.8mm x 29.85mm x 4.85mm (mSATA)
Operating temperature:
0°C~70°C
Storage temperature:
-40°C~85°C
Weight:
120GB — 480GB — 41g (2.5”)
960GB — 57g (2.5”)
1.92TB — 52g (2.5”)
120GB — 6.6g (M.2)
240GB — 6.7g (M.2)
480GB — 7.7g (M.2)
960GB — 7.8g (M.2)
120GB — 6.2g (mSATA)
240GB — 480GB — 6.7g (mSATA)
Vibration operating:
2.17G Peak (7–800Hz)
Vibration non-operating:
20G Peak (10–2000Hz)
Life expectancy: 1 million hours MTBF
Warranty/support3:
Limited 5-year warranty with free technical support
Total Bytes Written (TBW)4:
120GB — 60TB
240GB — 100TB
480GB — 200TB
960GB — 480TB
1.92TB — 800TB
  
The two 8 GB RAM modules came in a simple molded plastic holder with a clear plastic cover. The A1000 NVMe SSD Drive also came in a similar holder. Both came with the small manual, and the A1000 NVMe drive also came with a software key. The UV500 SSD drive came in a nice upgrade kit with a color printed box with photos and specs of the drive. Opening the box revealed a well protected drive held in a cardboard holder. Also included was an external case, a desktop drive bay mount, and power and data cables. Owners manual and product key was also included. The memory modules as well as the A1000 NVMe and UV500 SSD drives were all extremely well made.


Installation was very simple. Once the bottom cover of my laptop was off, it was easy to install the new memory modules, A1000 NVMe drive and UV500 SSD drives. The memory modules were spring loaded. Pulling out on the metal holder released it and it popped up. I just pulled out the stock module, slid in both of the new modules, pressed them down and they locked into place. For the A1000 NVMe drive, one end was held in the socket, and the other end was held in place by a small screw. Uninstalling the Intel Optane drive was as simple as taking out the screw which popped up the Optane drive, and then just pulling it out of the socket. Installing the new A1000 NVMe drive was done in reverse order.

One of the great things about both the A1000 NVMe drive as well as the UV500 SSD drive, is the inclusion of the product key, which is for an OEM version of the Acronis True Image software. The software allows you to make a backup copy of your hard drive, as well as make a clone copy of your hard drive. Being able to make a clone copy is what had me really excited. Thanks to the software, it made upgrading hard drives very easy. With the new A1000 NVMe drive installed, I downloaded and installed the software, made a clone copy of my hard drive and had it loaded onto my new A1000 NVMe drive.

It was now time to test. Windows seemed to load ok with the clone version loaded on the new hard drive. Disconnecting my slow platter drive and restarting windows confirmed that the clone copy took perfectly. Now I was able to install the UV500 SSD drive as my secondary drive, in the spot my platter drive was in. After restarting windows and seeing the UV500 SSD drive was installed, it was time to shut down, screw down the back panel, and run some numbers. Now let’s see how it all performs!

I read good things of the Intel Optane drive, and it did impress. I was able to get windows to load very fast! As expected, using just the 7200 RPM platter drive: well..... it crawled. I was pleased to see the Kingston A1000 NVMe drive performed even better than the Intel Optane drive. Windows didn’t load a whole lot faster, but it was faster. And you can see from the numbers that the Kingston drive was up to 50% faster than the Optane drive. And when you compare the Kingston drive to the platter hard drive; well, it’s painful.

If you can do your own upgrades, that’s where you get the most bang for the buck. My laptop was a Walmart Black Friday online special. Looking at HP’s website, if I were to configure it myself with what I wanted, going from the Optane drive to a 256 GB NVMe drive was a $180 upgrade. And there was no option to change the platter drive to an SSD drive. Kingston’s 240 GB NVMe drive is only $60. But the 960 GB version is only $220. Going from 8 GB of RAM to 16 GB through HP was $160, while 2 sticks of 8 GB through Kingston is only $75 each. And the Kingston UV500 SSD drive upgrade kit was only $215.00.

If you want the best performance for your laptop, you will want to upgrade to more RAM, to the faster NVMe drive, and SSD secondary drive. You get a bigger bang for your buck doing the upgrades yourself. And Kingston has you covered with their A1000 NVMe drive, UV500 SSD drive and their memory modules. Based on their design, features, quality and performance they have earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs check out their website at www.kingston.com.



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Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Annual Editor's Choice Awards

2018 has been a fun and exciting year.  There have been some excellent products from some great manufacturers that have come across my desk this year.  Some have been good, others have been great.  However some have been spectacular.  This is to honor those spectacular products, the Editor's Choice Award recipients.



AKG N5005 Reference Class Hybrid 5-Way In-Ear Monitors

Audio-Technica AT33EV MC Phono Cartridge

Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT Over The Ear Digital Headphones Review


Ethereal and Metra Home Theater Premium Home Audio & Video Installation Products



Infinity Kappa Perfect 300 & 900 Car Component Speaker System

JBL Boombox Portable Bluetooth Speaker Review

JBL Extreme 2 Wireless Waterproof Speaker System


Massive Audio Nano BLU BL1 Car Subwoofer Amp Review

Netgear Orbi WiFi System AC3000RBK50

Sennheiser HD1 Wireless Around The Ear Adaptive Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sonarworks True Fi Desktop Headphone Calibration Software

Ultimate Ears UE 11 Pro 4-Way Custom In-Ear Monitors with Dedicated Subwoofer

Westone Elite Series ES80 8-Way Custom Custom In-Ear Monitors

As you can see, there have been some excellent products reviewed this year.  We hope you have enjoyed the reviews.  From us here are Stereowise Plus, Happy Holidays to you and your family.  And thanks for reading!


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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sonarworks True Fi Headphone Desktop Calibration Software Review


All speakers sound different from each other. The same is true of headphones. This is called sound signature or voice. To have a true reference sound, the response curve or voice would be completely flat. But this is extremely difficult to do. Now it is possible. Enter the Sonarworks True Fi.

Features and specs:

Here's what you get with your True-Fi licence:
·         Age and Gender related hearing loss compensation 
·         Unlimited access to our 272 + supported headphone profiles 
·         Access to all future updates and features 
·         Up to 3 devices simultaneously 
·         Mobile app for Android and iOS*
Headphones:
·         +/- 0.9 dB accuracy with individually calibrated headphones
·         +/- 3 dB accuracy with average profiles for headphone models

LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC
Desktop App
·         All computer audio is processed, works on a system level
·         Supported sample rate on Mac currently up to 96 000 Hz; on Windows up to capabilities of your WASAPI device
·         Mac: macOS 10.9 or later
·         Windows: Windows 7 or later
·         Hardware: 512 Mb RAM
Mobile App
·         Local music content (Android)
·         iTunes music library - manually synced content (iOS)**
·         Spotify (Premium account required)
·         Compatible with the latest Android and iOS versions
·         Supports sample rates up to 96kHz***
·         iOS: MP3, WAV, AIFF, AAC, ALAC
·         Android: MP3, WAV, OGG (Vorbis), AAC, FLAC
* Official Mobile App launch is scheduled at the end of Q1, 2019, until then, you are welcome to be a part of Sonarworks True-Fi Mobile Early Access.
**Apple Music is unavailable due to Apple DRM limitations.
***During Early Access period flac and high sample rate file playback is not yet fully supported on all devices and is currently being improved.

As this is a software program that is downloaded, there is no materials or build quality to rate. It’s just a matter of downloading the software onto your laptop or smartphone. So while a positive aspect is that is just a program that you download, the same can also be looked as a potential con as well.  And while the software is available, it is currently only available for computers.  The smartphone app has not yet been officially released, but will soon be.

To use the product, you are limited to listening to music on your laptop or smartphone where the software is installed. One other con, is that it is only compatible with certain headphones. While this list is a couple hundred long and continually growing, it is still a small percentage of headphones found among listeners. Having said that, it could be used as a time to upgrade to better headphones, and get a pair that is compatible with the software.  There are a couple of ways that you can use the product, depending on the quality of end result that you are looking for.  If you already have a nice pair of headphones that are on the list of once supported, then all you need is the software.  If you don't have a pair that is supported, then you could just buy a pair that is on the supported list, and then buy the software.  But Sonarworks also does pre-calibration.  So for the most accuracy, you have a couple options. You could either buy one of the models of headphones that Sonarworks sells that have actually been pre-calibrated, or you could send in your headphones to be pre-calibrated. 

Using the software was very simple. It was just a matter of downloading and installing the software.  Once it was installed, there is a 10 day trial, and a product key when you buy the software that you would enter in.  After you open the software, you enter your profile of gender and age.  We naturally lose certain aspects of our hearing as we get older, and the program compensates for it.  Next you enter in your make and model of headphone.  For me I used a Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.  After this was all entered, the software was ready to use, and was as simple as clicking the engage button.  Click on the button again and it disengages.  So it is easy to go back and forth to see how the music sounds with it engaged vs with it disengaged.  And it was also really cool to be able to see the response curve of the headphones, as well as the new flat response curve of the software once engaged, and the small increase in curve with the age adjustment figured in. Now let’s see how they sound.

Being the holiday season, I turned to one of my favorite artists, Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Celebration.  I went through the various tracks one at a time, 1st with it engaged, and then with it disengaged.  And did the same multiple times for each track, going back and forth.  And I must say, I was very surprised with the result.  I loved the sound of the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro previously.  But hearing the sound of the headphones with the software engaged was mind blowing.  There was not a single track where I preferred the sound of the headphones without the software.  There were a couple where the difference in sound was not much, but it was still improved.  And there were some tracks where the sound was improved quite a bit!  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the nice big and wide soundstage that I have come to love from the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro did not change.  As the imaging also did not change.  I was equally surprised that the overall sound without the software engaged was a bit flat and had less energy.  None of the resolution, harmonics, or texture was lost with the software engaged.  Yet I gained a more energetic and livelier sound.  For me, the Sonarworks True Fi is a must have, and I can see most audiophiles feeling the same way.  It's truly a must hear to appreciate!

I’m glad to see the market for high quality music increasing, such as hi-res audio, and access to more and more of these high res downloads and streaming sites. And thanks to this software, the Sonarworks True Fi, we have a tool to make our music sound as the producer intended. Having listened to and used the software, it works as designed. It’s an amazing feat! Based on it’s design, features, quality, and performance, the Sonarworks True Fi has earned our Editor’s Choice award. If you consider yourself an Audiophile, this is a must have software, and at an MSRP of only $79 it is worth every penny! For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.sonarworks.com.




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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit Model GP-PSK-120 Review


The Prepper community is growing. And with all of the natural disasters recently, floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes…I can see why. And some products will work for both Preppers and outdoor enthusiasts, like for a travel trailer. Up for review today is a product that will work for both. Enter the Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit GP-PSK-120.

Features and specs:
Output Power: 120W
Rated Current: 6.7A
Rated Voltage: 18V
Dimensions of panel folded closed (inches): 32.48 x 19.88 x 2.76
Dimensions of panel open (inches): 32.48 x 39.76 x 1.38
Weight of kit: 15 kg (33 lbs)




The Go Power! GP-PSK-120 came shipped in a nice looking color printed box with photos and specs printed on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected system held in a case. I pulled out the case and saw a well made semi hard zipper case. Opening the case revealed the solar panels were made of mostly metal with a little bit of plastic. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It is built like a tank, and would provide years of use. Also included were the owner’s manual and cables.

The design of the Go Power! GP-PSK-120 is solid and extremely functional. It all fits in the semi-hard zipper case to protect it. When you pull it out, it’s impressive. It’s an efficient design. There are two panels that fold together. When they are folded together, the connectors and manual store conveniently inside. There are legs that fold down flat, one under each panel. So setting up the panels is very simple. It’s just a matter of folding the panels flat, puling out the legs, standing the panels up, and plugging in the correct connector for what the panels will be charging.

And they have all your charging options covered as well. If this is for an RV that is solar charger system ready, both SAE and XLR connectors are covered. If you are charging a regular 12 volt battery, your charging options are also covered. There are ring connectors for batteries that accept ring terminals. And for these batteries that do not accept ring terminals, there are extremely high quality alligator clips. Also included is a 12 foot extension cord so you have plenty of distance to set up your panels next to the battery.  I also loved the high quality heavy gauge 12/2 wire that was used throughout.

All in all it’s a very simple design. There are two 60 watt panels hinged together to fold flat when used. Underneath the panels is the 10 amp charge controller. When not used the panels fold up and hold the connectors. The handle is even a solid heave gauge metal that is spring loaded to close when not in use. So far, it’s all very impressive. Let’s see how it all works.

Setting it up was as easy as unfolding it, pulling out the legs, locking into place the extension cord, and then plugging in the cable with the ring terminals and connecting it to my battery.  The amp charge controller quickly came to life, and I was able to go into the setting and make sure it was set for my AGM style battery. The manual was very easy to read and follow.  I could see that per the manual I should be getting 14.4V (+ or -0.1V) from the solar panels to the battery.  Looking up at the digital display on the charge controller it was confirmed, 14.5V.  I loved that I could toggle the display to show current voltage being received, current amps, and percentage that the battery was charged.  And having a USB connection on the side of the charge controller was also a nice bonus.

In the end, I was very impressed with the Go Power! 120-Watt Portable Solar Kit GP-PSK-120. I can’t see how it could be built any more solidly. You should get many years of service out of it. And the panels and controller worked great together to provide the power I expected. While it's MSRP of $680 is not cheap, it can be found for less online.  And given it's impeccable build quality and performance, feel it is worth every penny! Based on it’s design, features, quality and performances, the Go Power! GP-PSK-120 has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.gpelectric.com.




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